Welcome To The Cradle Chronicles!

These are the crazy confessions of a first time mommy, and her adventures in world "mom-ination." If you are coming to this blogsite by way of People.com, chances are you’re already familiar with my writing style and “Mommy-centric” blog fodder. If not, I'll introduce myself with this brief summary: Suffice it to say, I had a baby in May. Now, I’m not suggesting this defines me entirely, but it certainly goes a long way toward explaining my daily trials and tribulations with spit-up and dirty diapers. Which brings me to… Welcome to The Cradle Chronicles! I hope you’ll continue coming back again and again for more of my motherhood anecdotes, and I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to follow me on Twitter too!

--Photos in Welcome section courtesy of Mimosa Arts Photography--

December 27, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

Due to extensive holiday travel plans with my family, I am taking two weeks off from posting new material on The Cradle Chronicles. I hope you understand, and will return on Friday, January 3, 2014, to read the next new Cradle Chronicles installment! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this year’s family Christmas photo… I’m pretty sure Gray’s face says it all!

 

From my family to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy, and blessed holiday season. See you in 2014!

 

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

Jenna von Oy

 

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December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

Due to extensive holiday travel plans with my family, I am taking two weeks off from posting new material on The Cradle Chronicles. I hope you understand, and will return on Friday, January 3, 2014, to read the next new Cradle Chronicles installment! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this year’s family Christmas photo… I’m pretty sure Gray’s face says it all!

 

From my family to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy, and blessed holiday season. See you in 2014!

 

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

Jenna von Oy

 

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December 13, 2013

 

This is my last Thanksgiving-related post. I swear.

I know we are well into December now, but last week I promised you the story about our delayed Thanksgiving celebration, so here it goes…

 

Thanksgiving was a bit of a bust for us, and that’s putting it mildly. There was no turkey or chestnut stuffing; there were no pumpkin pies or Tryptophan-induced stupors. There wasn’t even the distraction of a noisy football game or the joy of putting up the Christmas tree. There was just Pneumonia. And while I scoff at a cold, and gingerly push through the flu, Pneumonia had me face down on the floor of the boxing ring (actually it was the bathroom floor…) with an invisible elfin referee on my shoulder screaming, “We’ve got a TKO, Ladies & Gentleman!” I was officially down for the count.

 

It’s never fun to be under the weather, but if I thought being sick before having kids was bad, I was in for a rude awakening as a parent. Gone are the days of sleeping it off during the afternoon, and sipping 7-Up while watching Andy Griffith reruns until one feels better again. Gone are the days of having coughing fits without scaring anyone, since mini-me has no idea why you sound like a Gremlin and your body is contorting like something out of The Exorcist (not that mini-me is old enough to know what those movies even are, but you get the point). Gone too, it seems, is the ease of effortlessly bouncing back to health. But it’s so much more than that. Aside from the obvious fear of giving your child whatever illness you’ve contracted, it’s the mundane stuff that makes getting sick so impossibly difficult as a parent. Because let’s be honest– trying to chase after a walking, talking ball of energy, when you have the balance of a drunken sailor, is an abysmally draining task. It’s hard to explain why you can’t handle playing hide and go seek, or why the thermometer isn’t something the doggies are allowed to play with. It’s difficult to offer up the words, “Don’t stand up on the couch!” with any kind of authority, when you’re weakly muttering it through feverish delirium. Likewise, chattering teeth can make the phrase, “Please don’t draw on the wall with cheese,” slightly more lackluster than you intended for it to be. And let’s not get started on the puking.  Oh, the puking. In my particular case, and worst of all, I was instructed to wear a protective facemask in front of my child for 48 hours. It nearly did me in. There’s something terribly pitiful about having your 18-month old tug your mask down so she can make sure Mommy is still under there. Thank God that was short-lived.

 

And so my Pneumonia made me tough to be around for about ten days. I was running a high fever for six of them, which rendered me horribly dazed and confused, and meant that I was virtually incapable of doing anything for myself. This included walking to the bathroom without passing out; I’ll spare you the rest of the gruesome details. I’m eternally grateful for my husband, who wound up taking four days off from work to nurse me back to health. He essentially spent every waking moment trying to juggle two needy babies. (For the record, one of us tried to spare him as much whining as humanly possible… thank you, Gray!) Now, more than ever before, I have serious respect for the single moms out there. Because I’m not gonna lie, I couldn’t have hacked it on my own. You guys are rock stars.

 

Courtesy of some heavy-duty antibiotics and much-needed rest, I was (am) finally on the mend. And with the “better late than never” cliché in mind, we decided to celebrate a very belated feast of thanks at our house about ten days after the fact. In December. Suffice it to say I was more than a little excited to get a turkey in that oven! So fear not, friends, Pneumonia hasn’t gotten the better of me, and the Thanksgiving-that-nearly-wasn’t has finally come to pass.

 

Now bring on a HEALTHIER Christmas, please!  Wishing you all a safe and healthy holiday season…

 

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

Jenna von Oy

 

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December 6, 2013

In honor of our Thanksgiving that wasn’t (check back next week for my blog post on how our holiday was overshadowed), I thought I would proffer a funny little anecdote, along with an equally funny photo of my daughter’s school project…

When I went to pick Gray up from daycare the week before Thanksgiving, I was reminded of one of the reasons I adore her school so much: they really stress creative expression. For a mom who’s kid already loves to color on walls and sing at the top of her lungs in the bathtub, that’s both heart-warming and a relief. (It also gives me hope that, sooner rather than later, she’ll be focusing her artistic attentions on canvas and paper instead of our refrigerator and front door. But I digress.) As I passed by each classroom, I stopped to appreciate all of the various Thanksgiving-inspired artwork: cornucopia’s overflowing with hand drawn fruits, and fall colors splashed across white construction paper like a pile of fiery autumn leaves.

When I got to the toddler room, which is Gray’s class, there was a perfect lineup of handprint turkeys. How wonderfully nostalgic! I was struck by the delicacy of them all, and they made me smile while simultaneously tugging at my sentimental heartstrings. The handprints were transformed into silly painted turkeys, yes, but they were still an indication of how beautifully and quickly our children are growing. Boasting bright feathers and whimsical little wattles, each one had a child’s name printed in the corner. As I scanned the flock for my own daughter’s masterpiece, my eyes passed over pristine handprint turkey after pristine little handprint turkey. And that’s when I got to Gray’s fine-feathered friend… A macabre fellow, who somehow managed to be the one guy looking as though he’d already been executed. It was the equivalent of Quentin Tarantino directing a Disney flick.

 

I’m so proud.

 

Here’s hoping you and yours had a happy Thanksgiving holiday, and that everyone fared better than this guy!

(And in case you’re curious, Mr. Morbid Turkey is totally staying up on our fridge…)

The Perfect Turkey

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

Jenna von Oy

 

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  • Morgan says:

    Jenna, this picture made me laugh out loud! I love your blog, and look forward to it each week. I have a 19 month old (also my first), and she and Gray are often involved in similar escapades. I hope you and your family enjoy the holidays; I know they will be especially magical this year!

November 29, 2013

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It’s that time of year when we conduct November’s annual rite of passage, gathering around the family table and mercilessly stuffing our faces full of mashed potatoes, chestnut dressing, and turkey (or turducken, if you’re slightly more ambitious with your culinary skills). We join hands and give thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us throughout the year, reminisce about the time Uncle Bob spilled his eggnog in the cranberry sauce (talk about “sauced”), and dream of a utopian future which will enable us to beam in robot housekeepers who won’t bemoan the number of pesky after-dinner dishes piling up in our kitchen sink. Once the harvest meal is through, we crash on the couch in a supposed Tryptophan-induced stupor, absent-mindedly watching the Macy’s Day Parade and pretending to be interested in the football games that follow, before foolishly over-indulging in round two of the day’s leftovers and repeating the grisly cycle yet again. In anticipation of the forthcoming December holidays, some of us begin our yearly trek to the far corners of our attic to fetch ornaments and stockings (or other related symbols of the season), grumbling about untangling Christmas tree lights and wondering how last year’s evergreen is still managing to scatter prickly little needles across our living room, despite its current status as garden mulch. If we’re lucky, our children have come down from their pumpkin pie sugar high before bedtime, and we aren’t up all night nursing tummy aches– theirs or our own– or having night terrors about drunken mall Santas and 4am Black Friday shopping sprees. But I digress. Despite the holiday chaos and impending post-Thanksgiving malaise, the point of November’s celebratory feast remains. Appropriate to its namesake, I’m thankful for every bit of it.

I hope some of what I’m grateful for is a given– that my past blog posts have exposed, and properly honored, my gratitude for my loved ones and the gifts we’ve been granted. I’m optimistic that most of you read between the silly and sarcastic lines I write, and see through to the intentions beneath them. Because all joking aside, I’m exceedingly thankful for the ability to wake up every morning to the man I love and our enchanting, wondrous daughter. I absolutely adore being a wife and mommy, and nothing makes me happier than spending my days chasing after a little girl who never stops challenging the amount of love I thought I was capable of possessing in one lifetime! The extent of my appreciation cannot fit within the confines of this post; the only thing truly large enough to hold it all is my heart.

With that said, and in keeping with the Thanksgiving spirit, I wanted to offer you a somewhat satirical rendition of a list of parent-related items I’m especially thankful for this year. Having a baby has made me infinitely more conscious of how I’ve taken smaller details for granted in the past. So this year, when I sit down to extend my acknowledgment and praise on “Turkey Day,” I’m giving some of those vital helping hands a little love too. In no particular order:

1.    Roomba: You are one hell of a workhorse. Thank you for cleaning up wayward goldfish crumbs, the miscellaneous vegetable peels that miss the compost can, and the sporadic piles of paper strips that accumulate when my daughter succeeds in getting a hold of the napkin dispenser. You allow me to enjoy my little girl’s penchant for making a mess, without stressing that I can’t get it cleaned up before company arrives. Not to mention, you suck up those giant dog hair tumbleweeds that collect in forgotten corners of our house, and you don’t even complain about it! Best of all, you are a true caffeine martyr. You save me from hyperactive canines –and kids, for that matter– by digesting the fallen coffee beans that my husband always seems to send skittering across our kitchen floor as he refills the grinder. (Lord knows my life is hectic enough, without having a caffeinated Pug on my hands!) I know we keep you busier than Charlie Sheen’s attorney these days, but you handle it with style and grace… Despite your propensity to trap yourself in the bathroom and aimlessly spin in circles for hours. Which I personally find hilarious.

Mr. Morning Cup of Coffee

2.    Mr. Morning Cup of Coffee (and your sidekicks, Second Cup & Third Cup):  You are my lifelines and my curative comrades. Thank you for your support and guidance, especially on those chilly mornings when I want to crawl back into bed and can’t or shouldn’t. You’ve gotten me through many a blog post, including this one!

 Flashlight Army

 3.    Flashlight Army: I’m not exactly sure why my hubby owns more of you than he owns pairs of shoes, but I’ll admit you earn your keep. You bring new meaning to the phrase, “location, location, location!” Thank you for helping to unearth the plethora of books, toys, crayons, and sippy cup straws our daughter hides under the couch. Without you, she’d be hoarding the entire utensil drawer under there… Even the stray plastic sporks we’ve been compelled to save from random take-out orders. Also, thank you for shedding light on the errant dog kibble that stows away under our rugs and drives our dogs crazy. Their endless pawing to retrieve the damn things makes me crazy, so you’ve essentially contributed toward my mental stability.

4.    Baby Proof Toilet Latch: My husband and I have discovered that you exist almost as much for the sanity of the parent, as for the safety of the child.  Thank you for keeping little fingers from getting crushed under the weight of that maniacal and spastic toilet bowl lid (I swear he has it in for all of us!), and thank you for your constant protection. You are an unparalleled sentinel, saving every hairbrush, sock, lipstick, toothpaste tube, and toilet paper roll from certain death in a watery grave.

 5.    iVy iPod: Thank you for the constant Raffi and Little Mermaid earworms you gift me on a daily basis. You are too kind! You provide tunes while my daughter bathes, encouraging her to splash water all over the room… And the walls. And the dogs. To some, this may sound like a thankless job, but you are also helping Gray to express herself through music, and for that I am eternally grateful. Your choice of artists may not always be up my alley, but you literally (and figuratively) rock.

 6.    Elmo: Thank you for being Gray’s little buddy. She loves watching your show; you are by far the most famous TV star in our house! Gray is especially fond of the fact that your picture is on the front of her current set of diapers, and she’s a big fan of your Potty Time with Elmo book lately, so… perhaps I should also thank you for any future assistance you can offer in that department.

7.    Sir Step Stool: Pretty soon Gray will be taller than me, and I swear you won’t be quite as overworked and underpaid. In the meantime, thanks for helping me stow every fragile/sharp/inedible/irreparable/irreplaceable item out of Gray’s reach. Oh yeah, and bonus points for being collapsible, so you aren’t providing her with yet another piece of furniture to climb on!

Hat Posse

 8.    Hat Posse: I appreciate that you don’t discriminate– that your clique encompasses every shape, size, and level of fashion-awareness. You don’t need to be Haute Couture to make my daughter smile, and you manage to make her do that without fail. Turns out, you are the one thing that can thwart a foul mood in our house! (We discovered this one evening when she begged for you amidst tears and sniffling, then immediately started laughing once you were atop her head.) Despite the fact that I swore you and your kind off after a case of over-saturation during the Blossom years, you’ve restored my faith. You’ve cured teething woes just by being present, and proven to be a successful source of distraction when a tantrum is on the horizon.

The Crayola Crayon Coterie

9.     The Crayola Crayon Coterie: Thank you for providing Gray with endless hours of fun and entertainment, even if you aren’t fond of sticking to the coloring book playground we’ve designated for you. I’m hoping one of these days your crew will stop “accidentally” wandering onto our refrigerator and front door, but I think I can see through to forgiving your transgressions. Particularly since you amuse my budding artist long enough for me to cook dinner!

 10.   Disinfecting Wipes: Thank you for cleaning up after the aforementioned “Crayon Coterie.” Those guys can get a little out of hand, and you’re always there to swoop in and save the day. Likewise, you do a remarkable job of sanitizing our grocery store carts before we wheel around the produce aisle, which I imagine staves off some of those foul, nasty germ miscreants. As a side note, I also owe you some kudos for getting the crusty oatmeal off of the couch cushions yesterday, and the Basset Hound drool off of the curtains last week.

11.  Kitchen Pots & Pans: You assist me in feeding my family and you double as an impromptu drum set for my kid. What more can I ask for?

Water

12.  Water: Most folks simply see you as good ol’ H2O, but I know better. You’ve taught my daughter to drink through a straw, kept her from being obsessed with sugary juice drinks, cleaned strawberries off of her face and paint off of her clothes, and let her endlessly splash you around during tub time. Best of all, you tame her Einstein hair…. Which is no easy feat, let me tell you!

 13.  Boogie Wipes: This should be self-explanatory. You deserve a standing ovation for keeping Gray’s nose happy and snot-free. I don’t know how you do it, but you actually inspire her to ask me to clean her nose, instead of running for the hills every time a box of tissue makes an appearance. How awesome are you?? In fact, I’m so grateful that I’ve even written you your very own ditty to the melody of that funky 70’s disco tune, Boogie Nights. It’s a pretty catchy interpretation, if I do say so myself! (That is, if you like waxing poetic about slime.)

 

And last but not least…

 

14. Her Excellency, Madame Glass of Wine: Your occasional presence, after our sweet baby is off in dreamland for the night, is much appreciated. Every now and then, we like your company at the end of a long and trying evening, so thank you for offering my husband and I an opportunity to celebrate the success of getting through another day of parenting! We aren’t always graceful or perfect in that undertaking, but we sure do love every minute of it! You remind us to stop and take a moment out for ourselves, and you encourage us to put our feet up for a few minutes, appreciate our alone time together, and cherish all of the wonderful memories from the day. We’ve collected many special bottles of you over the years, thanks to special occasions and our travels, and it has been nice getting to know each and every one of you. A toast to your friendship!

 

Obviously, the above list is a partial one. Nary a day goes by that I don’t realize how indebted I am to the various gadgets and gizmos that aid and abet my parenting! The truth is that motherhood requires assistance, and I’ve found it can come through a myriad of different channels… family members, friends, teachers, medical professionals, and apparently, even miscellaneous household products. I hope I’ve made you laugh a bit, and maybe even opened your eyes to the wonderful world of indispensable inanimate objects. They can be our parenting partners in crime! So this Thanksgiving, as you sit down to spread heartfelt love and thanks to those around you, I urge you to give a brief round of applause for the little guys… because no one should be exempt from a little validation. Even robot vacuums.

Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy, blessed, and thankful holiday season!

 

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

 

Jenna von Oy

**As a side note: Any reference to a specific brand or item in my blog is because I felt it would make the post funnier, or give you more insight into what we actually use around the house. I wasn’t compensated for any of these mentions, and it doesn’t denote any sponsorship!

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November 22, 2013

 

In honor of the sacred alone time I’m attempting to find a little more of lately, I thought I’d let you in on a few of my favorite things to do when I allow a quiet moment for myself. (It’s a good reminder for me too!) In no particular order…

1.    Drinking a glass of wine. Okay, maybe this list is in order; don’t judge. I currently live in the Bible Belt, where a lot of folks frown upon the notion of touching their lips to an alcoholic beverage of any kind. To each their own, but indulging in a glass of (what I fondly refer to as) “Mommy juice” every now and then is good for the soul. Hell, I’m a firm believer that a glass a day keeps the doctor away…  far more than those silly apples, which claim to do the same! I generally prefer a Cabernet or a Syrah, though I’ve been known to partake in a dry French rosé, or even an Albariño, on a hot summer day. Regardless of the varietal, sitting back and sipping a glass of delicious vino is a beautiful thing. (Not to mention, I’m Catholic, and we do like our wine!)

2.    Watching an episode of Castle or The Mentalist. It seems I‘m always several years behind the curve in discovering good television shows. While everyone else is enjoying season four of something, I’ve typically just stumbled onto episode one. That said, at least it allows me to watch at my own pace, since everything is on DVD by the time I get into it. And when your mommy me-time is limited, that’s a huge benefit! Instead of impatiently waiting for my weekly fix, I marathon everything well after the fact. Once a week, during Gray’s naptime, I try to force myself to set work aside for an hour and let someone else do the entertaining. It gives my mind a rest for a while, and allows me to refuel.  While some of the shows I watch are totally frivolous, they offer me the chance to ignore my own drama in lieu of someone else’s. And who doesn’t love some drama they can easily walk away from when they need a snack or a bathroom break?

3.    Cooking. If you’ve read my past blogs, you are already aware of my affinity for cooking as therapy. If you approach meal assembly with a sense of passion, it can truly be a curative and spiritual art. I adore the preparation process; it’s all in the details for me. There’s something soothing about dimming the lights, lighting the candles, turning on the Something’s Gotta Give or Julie & Julia soundtrack, and sharpening my good knife! If I’m able to temporarily lose myself in chopping Italian parsley and sautéing garlic for a few minutes, I’m a happy woman… Of course, it doesn’t hurt when the culinary experience is accompanied by the first item on this list :)

4.    Writing my book. Despite having to keep up with (and find time for) penning a weekly blog, I like to work on my book every chance I get. These days, my brain is constantly swarming with endless strings of syntax, and grammar rules galore. Inspiration often comes from the strangest sources, and I have to write when the mood strikes. When I’m fortunate enough for that to occur during my alone time, it’s an opportunity I just can’t pass up!

5.    Reading. It seems I never allow myself much time for this pastime anymore, and I’m beginning to realize just how much I miss it. My husband and I are both very avid readers, and we used to fit in a few chapters every night before bed. However, if I’m able to read before bed at this point, it’s likely Curious George Goes To The Zoo or Green Eggs And Ham. While I treasure every moment spent reading to my daughter, I also yearn for the inspiration of a novel I can really dig into. I long to feed my soul with colorful characters and eloquent language. It’s much like the need to have adult conversations every now and then… Which I also try to make time for!

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

 

Jenna von Oy

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November 15, 2013

Gray & Gigi

Grandma’s Hugs are Made of Love

Everything my grandma does
is something special made with love.
She takes time to add the extra touch
that says, “I love you very much.”

She fixes hurts with a kiss and smile
and tells good stories grandma-style.
It’s warm and cozy on her lap
for secret telling or a nap.

And when I say my prayers at night,
I ask God to bless and hold her tight.
Cause when it comes to giving hugs
my grandma’s arms are filled with love!

Author Unknown

 

Gray & Grandma 2

My mom came to visit this month, and watching her with my daughter made me downright gleeful. I laughed out loud, cried with tears of joy, and even inadvertently snorted during a few particularly hilarious moments. But most of all, I treasured observing the two of them interact… A grandmother and her granddaughter have a special bond that no one can deny. A visit from Grandma this month meant having another helping hand at music class, stitched up holes in Gray’s favorite pajamas, sharing yummy ice cream at our favorite shop, assistance in picking out pumpkins at the farmer’s market, a trick or treating chaperone, extra cuddles and hugs, reading books before bed, and homemade blueberry muffins in the morning (Which means I totally lucked out too!). In honor of their time together, I thought I’d proffer a few photos of a trip we took to the local park, where Gray and her “Gigi” strolled hand in hand, slid down the “big girl” slides, and swung to their hearts content. Which, ironically, made my heart content too! God bless Grandmas!!

 

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

 

Jenna von Oy

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November 8, 2013

The Life of the Party

Trick Or Treat

It was Gray’s first year of trick or treating, and we hit the ground running. No, she can’t yet plead for candy until she’s consumed enough to spike the glucose level of a rhinoceros (thank God), but we wanted her to experience Halloween in all of its wonderfully creepy glory. We dressed her as a fancy little bumblebee, complete with antennae and wings. Not to be left out, I made myself a beekeeper’s hat, and pinned a giant stuffed bee to my husband’s shirt. When asked, I suggested I’d let everyone else decide which of us is really the “queen bee.” (To which my husband wryly quipped, “I guess that makes me the drone?”)

 

To Bee Or Not To Bee

 

In nearby Franklin, Tennessee, they shut down several blocks of the Main Street each year in support of the Halloween festivities. It’s a police patrolled event, so it is a safe way to allow kids to conduct the age-old practice of dressing up in something adorably ghoulish, and trick or treating their way into a sugar-induced coma.  And thousands of children show up each year to participate. I know my propensity to exaggerate, but this isn’t one of those occasions. There are, quite literally, thousands of kids… not to mention some chocoholic adults who get a little carried away with their confectionery consumption. But I digress. Fortunately, dear friends of ours restored a stunning historic home right smack dab in the middle of it all, which means we have a “home base” of sorts. They more than do their part to decorate and hand out goodies each year (no joke, they emptied six Rubbermaid storage containers of treats!!), and we’ve made a tradition of joining them. In the past, we’ve handed out candy until the wee hours, gleefully laughing at little goblins as we’ve enjoyed a glass of wine and a huge pot of chili. But this year it was so much more than that, as we brought Gray from house to house, attempting to convince her to say “Trick or Treat.” Of course, those words were never officially uttered from her lips, but the spirit was there nonetheless. Her face lit up as she approached each homeowner and held out her pumpkin-shaped goodie bag. She would peer in afterward, to see what she had retrieved. She spent the evening humming little made-up tunes, and saying hello to passersby, regardless of how scary their masks might have been. And despite the fact that a cherry Tootsiepop was the only candy we allowed her to partake in after all of her efforts, she didn’t seem to mind. Moreover, she had just as much fun passing out candy to others, when we let her join us on our distribution “shift.” It was neat to watch her rush out to the sidewalk, to drop a handful of sweets into the bag of a mini ballerina or a toddling cowboy. Her capacity for sharing melted my heart, and I suppose it reinforced something I’ve known from day one… my daughter will always “bee” the life of the party.

 The Party is Over

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

 

Jenna von Oy

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November 1, 2013
Happy October From Gray & I!

Photo By: Mimosa Arts Photography

I know it’s the first day of November, but it’s October that still has me beguiled. October ignites the changing of seasons. It is the ushering in of cool days and crisp evenings, a magical time when the foliage cloaks itself in various shades of fire. It is a season which begs for the retrieval of cozy sweaters from the attic, making hand-dipped caramel apples, picking gourds at the local farmer’s market, sipping hot coffee on the front porch while gazing out at a foggy morning, and smelling the scent of hickory smoke from a neighbor’s wood burning stove. It prompts the scramble to find recipes for toasted pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin lattes, and pumpkin pies, and… well, pumpkin everything. (Is it my imagination, or has the pumpkin spice flavor fad taken over this season? Next up: pumpkin spice-scented toothpaste and toilet paper. God forbid.)

I eagerly beckon in the fall; it is my favorite season. The thought of it conjures stunning images of my childhood: the East Coast autumnal landscape, Halloween costume plotting, and swinging into colossal piles of raked leaves with my siblings. October is an enchanting, poetic time of year that has always inspired my heart. And it began doing so on a whole new level when my husband and I chose 10-10-10 to say, “I do.”

These days, October represents the resurrection of memories from our wedding day. It means opening up our treasured, leather-bound album, and reminiscing. It is a time to reflect on that beautiful afternoon when our closest family and friends gathered together at a bed and breakfast in Connecticut, to show their profound support and adoration for the love my husband and I share. It is celebrating that love all over again every October 10th, and bursting with gratitude for the blessings that have been bestowed upon us since then.

Yes, the month of October has taken on a life of it’s own. When Brad and I exchanged our heartfelt, self-written vows three years ago, we began a journey of love and learning that has lead to moments of joy, triumph, comedy, exhilaration, and even frustration. (After all, marriage is a constant work in progress, isn’t it? I’m a firm believer that if love were easy, we wouldn’t have the same degree of appreciation for it…) But most of all, our vows intensified the endless amount of trust, respect, and affection we have for one another.

And there’s proof of all of that in one phenomenal little seventeen-month old girl named Gray.

Waiting until my mid-thirties to get married meant I’d had plenty of time to dream of babies. Let’s just say my biological clock was ticking so loudly, I didn’t need to wear a wristwatch or set an alarm clock. But as we all know, life abides by its own set of rules and timelines, and they aren’t always in sync with our own. When Brad and I were finally blessed with finding one another, we knew kids would follow soon after our marriage. We both (firmly and resolutely) wanted children, and we were up front about it from the get-go. In fact, I posed the “do you want kids?” question on one of our first dates. I wasn’t messing around where that issue was concerned! In a way, the idea of raising babies became part of what endeared us to one another. It was one more way for us to connect and share our hopes for the future. And the truth is that Brad and I were already head over heels for Gray long before she entered the picture. She was a fixture in our thoughts, even on our wedding day. We may not have known her name, her arrival date, or whether she would be a boy or girl, but we knew she would eventually be in our lives. In our hearts, we were parents even before we had a living, breathing little girl to show for it. (Unless, of course, one takes canine babies into consideration!)

So in honor of the event that ultimately lead to my becoming a mommy– that stunningly perfect October afternoon when the skies stopped crying long enough for the sun to smile down on our wedding ceremony– I thought I’d do a blog in snapshots this month. I hope you enjoy perusing some of my favorite photos from that special day, as well as a few recent ones from this year. Viva October!

Here's Your Sign

Photo By: Brooke Boling Photography

Here’s Your Sign

I love the simplicity of this photo– everything the day stood for was represented on a little wooden sign!

It's All In The Details

Photo By: Brooke Boling Photography

It’s All In The Details

I’m a stickler for details, and it was very important to me to have personal touches around that made the wedding ours and ours alone. One of my favorites was my bouquet, which had old brooches of my Grandmother’s fastened onto it. Though she passed away years ago, it was neat to have that special reminder of her with me as I experienced such a beautiful milestone in my life. She would have been so proud!

Them Boots Were Made For Walkin'... Down The Aisle!

Photo By: Brooke Boling Photography

 Them Boots Were Made For Walkin’… Down The Aisle

There’s something I just adore about this photo of the boots I wore under my wedding gown. I love the vibrant colors and the composition of the photograph, but it’s much more than that. I think I’m partial to the idea that this was taken before our life-changing celebration began. It’s a snapshot of a moment in time: a pair of shoes never worn before, both literally and figuratively. These boots walked me down the aisle, stood beside my husband as we took our marriage vows, and danced us to our wedding song.

Our Marriage Vow Journal

Photo By: Brooke Boling Photography

Our Marriage Vow Journal

Brad and I read our vows, which we wrote ourselves and kept secret from one another until the ceremony, from a little journal engraved with our initials. Along with the other profoundly emotional and sincere words we extended to one another, it happens that we both spoke of the children we couldn’t wait to have together. Who knew we’d end up celebrating my pregnancy exactly a year later?! Gray has truly been the answer to our prayers.

 

Just Married!

Photo By: Brooke Boling Photography

Just Married!

This was taken in the moment immediately following the official pronouncement that we were husband and wife, and it makes me smile every time I see it. All of our happy tears and nerves had faded into giant smiles of sheer euphoria and marriage-induced intoxication!

Picture Perfect With A Pug

Photo By: Carla Ten Eyck Photography

Picture Perfect With A Pug

Before we were Gray’s parents, we were parents to Bruiser, Bailey, Mia, Boo, and Ruby. Not all of the pups could attend our wedding due to logistics (not to mention the highly probable, basset hound-instigated ruckus which would have ensued), but Bruiser served as our ring bearer. He did a fantastic job, and we had a quick photo opportunity with him before he headed home for the night. You know, since it was kind of pushing it to squeeze a Pug into a tuxedo for longer than ten minutes in the first place.

Siblings In Photo Booth (L-R: Peter, me, Alyssa, & Tyler)

Photo By: Carla Ten Eyck Photography

Siblings In Photo Booth (L-R: Peter, me, Alyssa, & Tyler)

Many of my favorite wedding photos consist of family and friends enjoying the festivities. From the photo booth, to the dance floor, to our amazing after-party (friends got up and sang ‘til the wee hours…), there was definitely a lot of love and joy going around! In an effort to maintain everyone’s privacy, I’ve refrained from posting any of those pictures. However, I just couldn’t resist including this one of my younger siblings and I hamming it up in the photo booth. I appreciate them agreeing to let me post it!

Dance With The One That Brought You… And Then Married You!

Photo By: Brooke Boling Photography

Dance With The One That Brought You… And Then Married You!

 I’m thoroughly captivated by this photo of us captivated with each other. This was during a very special dance that I surprised my husband with during our reception. I’d written and recorded a song for him, then snuck it to our DJ. Brad has been a huge supporter of my music endeavors, so it was neat to give him such an intimate and personal gift!

Under The Weather

Photo By: Brooke Boling Photography

Under The Weather

After a week of pouring rain, the clouds parted and our wedding day was gorgeous. Just in case Murphy’s Law and the inclement weather kicked back in, we’d rented vintage parasols. Thankfully, we didn’t wind up using any of them… except as props for some really cute photos!

 … And It All Lead To This Beautiful, Curious, Wonderful, Tiny Human.

Photo By: Mimosa Arts Photography

 … And It All Lead To This Beautiful, Curious, Wonderful, Tiny Human. 

Marriage has brought a lot of wonderful adventures to Brad and I, but none are as profound as the birth of our daughter. This little girl has stolen and hearts, and I’m pretty sure she’ll be holding them hostage (in the best possible way, of course) forever!!

 

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

 

Jenna von Oy

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October 25, 2013

Salted Caramel Sauce

 

I’m a sucker for salted caramel. It is my recent addiction/obsession/I’m-jonesing-for-it-like-it’s-crack thing. I don’t know who first came up with combining that sweet and salty duo, but they go together better than Sonny and Cher. And, thankfully, I don’t have to worry about them divorcing any time soon (or putting on any sort of comedy hour, for that matter). Yes, the brilliant mind that first offered up that fantastic fusion is a culinary genius, and clearly possesses a gift-giving soul. I owe him (or her) a quartet of fancy salted caramel pots de crème, or a batch of salted caramel fudge, or a beautiful salted caramel Bundt cake, or…    perhaps just a thank you note, since I’d probably eat any or all of those before I could get to the post office to overnight them. My point is that I’m more than a little preoccupied with the stuff. Despite the fact that I really don’t need oodles of sweet treats in my house, because they tend to relentlessly tempt my inner midnight-snacker and cause me to furtively glance at the bathroom scale as though it’s going to bite me, I can’t pry myself away from the gooey goodness! Initially, you may think it sounds like an odd combination. Much like the famous Hollywood institution of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, the notion of the oddball pair can be a bit off-putting. But one bite and you’ll be going back for more like it’s the buffet line at Caesar’s Palace. I promise. Which brings me to…

Salted caramel is not the cheapest thing to buy. In fact, according to most price tags I’ve seen, it seems folks are really proud of their efforts. Since I’m clearly craving it with reckless abandon, I needed to find a way to keep my newfound affinity from breaking the bank. In other words, I needed to find a way to cut out the middleman, and make it myself, any time I damn well please. With that in mind, I researched caramel a little bit, and you know what? Lo’ and behold, it isn’t so difficult to make!! Don’t get me wrong, it requires constant whisking so the sugar doesn’t burn, which is a pain in the butt when you have five dogs racing through the kitchen, dinner in the oven, and a sixteen-month old who’s peppering the kitchen floor with a package of goldfish crackers. But all told, it’s a fairly cheap and easy process… even for someone who refuses to follow recipes! Baking generally doesn’t allow for a ton of wiggle room, in my opinion, so I was a bit nervous to leap without looking. I was surprised to find that I was able to color outside of the lines without incurring catastrophic repercussions. In fact, adding my own flair resulted in a better caramel sauce than I could have hoped for. It’s sticky, it’s messy, it’s mildly time-consuming, and it’s fun! Because seriously? There’s nothing better than a sauce with caramel and salt. Unless, of course, you add my other favorite thing… coffee! Which is exactly what I did.

 

My “Perky” Salted Caramel Sauce

(Recipe created by Jenna von Oy)

 

Ingredients:

 

½  Cup granulated white sugar

½  Cup light brown sugar

1 ½ (6-8 tablespoons)Sticks unsalted butter

½ Cup heavy whipping cream

½ Cup strong French roast coffee

Fleur de sel to taste (about ½ -3/4 tablespoon)

 

Directions:

 

~Cut butter into small squares, and measure out the rest of your ingredients. In other words, get everything ready in advance. Once you get the sugar cooking down, you won’t want to walk away from it or get too distracted! (So basically, maybe don’t make this until your kids are asleep…)

~ Heat all sugar in a saucepan over medium/high heat. I prefer a good solid stainless All-Clad saucepan, but as long as you have something you’re comfortable with, you should be golden. When the sugar starts to melt, you’ll need to begin whisking… and whisking… and whisking. Sugar burns super easily, so that’s why I’m making sure you understand the importance of continuing to whisk. And this is the tough part, because the sugar clumps up like little rock candies before it actually melts down. Plus, it sticks to EVERYTHING that touches it, so be forewarned! The idea is to get the sugar browned, but not burned. It should turn a very deep golden-brown color, and reach about 350 degrees with a candy thermometer… which I would definitely recommend using, if you have one handy.

~Once you have that pretty, toasty hue, begin whisking in your butter squares. I put in a few at a time, whisked until everything was well blended, then added a few more. Keep doing that until all of the butter is melted and combined with the sugar.

~Pull your saucepan off of the heat, and add your heavy whipping cream. You want to whisk until the cream is completely incorporated in your sugar/butter mixture.

~Whisk in your French Roast coffee.

~Whisk in your salt. I would add a little at a time, until you have the desired flavor you are looking for.

~I set the caramel to the side for a little while (maybe 10-15 minutes) before using it, so it could cool down. I then drizzled some over our homemade breakfast croissants, and poured the rest into a giant mason jar. The great news?  It can keep for up to several weeks or even a month in the fridge! You know, if it lasts that long without you eating it J

 

Now get out there and indulge your salty-sweet tooth!

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

 

Jenna von Oy

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